Everyone is on Meds

Social anxiety, for me, happens when I go out into the world and I feel like everyone is watching me. I can feel eyes on me watching my every move, even reading my thoughts… It’s that feeling that there are a bunch of cameras hidden, and they’re all pointed at me; I can’t see them, but I know that there are people watching me. They’re judging, critiquing, mocking, maybe even laughing at me. Every move I make is seen, and thought or feeling I have, even though I’m not saying them out loud, are broadcast throughout the land.

My social anxiety often feels like The Truman Show.

When a wave of social anxiety approaches me, I start to assume that everyone I meet is on medication. Every person surrounding me is on one medication or another, so they’re no different than me.

Like my father always said, “Better living through chemistry.”

I like to look at people and think, “I bet you’re bipolar, aren’t you?” Or “You’re so taking Ritalin,” and then I identify my Xanax homies and Lorazepam bros.

It’s a device, like picturing the audience in their underwear. It’s a means to make an uncomfortable situation bearable. By assuming everyone I meet is also on medication, I feel I am on equal terms with them. I don’t feel inadequate, I feel like I get where they’re coming from.

Telling people I’m on meds is disarming. It makes people feel either uncomfortable, confused, or relieved. The uncomfortable don’t know what to do, and usually end up saying ignorant hurtful shit that ends with me telling them “well then you’re not really someone I want to associate with, so fuck off.” Confused people offer an opportunity to educate individuals about the importance of mental health and wellness. The relieved feel blessed, “I’m on meds too! I’m not alone! We can be messed up together!

Medication is a great way to make friends, connections, learn something new, and most importantly: just all around feel so much fucking better about being alive.

It’s hard to feel good about being alive sometimes. Meds make it easier to feel good about being alive.

My depression, when untreated, feels like a wound/injury that I feel all day everyday. I wake up in the morning and think, “ugh I’m alive, but I’m in pain! It hurts! This sucks! “ but then I get aid, be it in the form of a band-aid, therapy, or medication and everything starts feeling better again. Feeling alive starts to feel good again.

Before medication, my anxieties were crippling and my depression made living miserable. I once told a counselor, “I’m alive, but it hurts, being alive actually hurts. Having to function hurts. Going through the necessities of life is hurting me. Paying bills, taxes, laundry, recycling, driving, ordering, appointments, etc.”

Basic life functions may be easy for others, but when you wake up already in pain, going through those functions is like pouring salt on an open wound.

It’s like I have a broken leg but I’m walking on it anyways and going to work thinking, “I’m here, I’m getting what I need to do done. But it hurts like fucking hell while I do it. It’s making me more miserable, it’s making me worse….” If you walk on a broken leg without treating it, it won’t get better and it won’t be tolerable. Even if what you have to do is something that is necessary for life, you won’t be able to do it until you take care of that broken leg.

So I’m on medication to manage my mental health, I have been for the past three years. I used to feel shame about that fact, the stigmas of mental health were gossip fodder for my anxieties that made me want to quit meds and stay in my cave of shame. But then something amazing happened; I began waking up and feeling excited about being alive. I could face my days not dreading the pain I’d endure, but instead determination and motivation began flooding my system.

I started to become less socially anxious when I began trying to assume who was on what medication, then silently sympathizing with that person’s pain. When I make these silent assumptions, it is not done in search of truth. I am not looking to diagnose anyone or correctly guess what medication that person may be taking. Instead, it is a way for me to filter my social anxieties so that I may not feel inadequate or unequal with whomever I’m speaking to. Being in social situations is hard, especially when I feel like there’s something wrong with me all the time. By assuming that there’s something wrong with everyone else, I don’t feel I am the only one struggling.

You’re not alone. Even if it’s not being said aloud, everyone’s medicating their pain one way or another. You don’t need to be ashamed, but you don’t have to talk about it either. You do you.

Follow me on twitter @JoyPearson

This piece was edited by the magical Sarah Fader @thesarahfader on twitter

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When I’m depressed.

When I’m depressed, I wear more layers. If I have to go out, I’m wearing comfy sweats or pajamas (paired with slippers if it’s cold outside), and a sweater over a thick hoodie. I need layers between my body and the world when I’m depressed. My depression pulls me deep under layers of sadness and darkness; the more layers between myself and the world, the more layers I put on my body to wear. I also burrow under blankets, wrapping them tight around me so I’m constrained. I probably should invest in a weighted blanket, because I light being warm and wrapped tight when I have a bad day.

When I’m depressed I don’t talk. Being around people and being forced into small talk or conversation causes me actual pain. If I can be alone, I don’t speak a word. I move quietly through my apartment accomplishing very small human tasks that don’t require a lot of energy (i.e. Microwaving a meal, doing a load of laundry, taking a shower, etc). I’ll sit for hours binge watching favorite tv shows that I’ve seen a million times because they remind me of comfort and safety (my favorites to rewatch are Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, Parks & Recreation, Friends, and Life in Pieces). I do this all in silence because I don’t have the energy to speak, much less listen to myself speak.

When I’m depressed my head is quiet, as negative thoughts come in whispers and doubts are hissed. So I listen to music loud to drown out the negativity and fill my head with peace. Music is the closest thing humans have to magic. It embraces the spirit and encourages emotion to be felt. The dark place in my head is a lot less lonely when there’s music to keep me company. My favorites to listen to are Taylor Swift, Kesha (listening to her new album Rainbow for the first time was a cathartic journey), Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Debussy, Florence + The Machine, Miles Davis, and Adele.

When I’m depressed I feel guilty about everything. Like I’ve done something horribly wrong and I am a terrible person that deserves to feel bad for it. I can’t explain what exactly it is that I’ve done wrong, I never have been able to describe it. Whenever I’ve been depressed, it’s always felt like this overwhelming feeling of having made a horrible mistake, and days afterwards I feel guilty for no real reason. In those periods I tend to apologize more quickly when I make a mistake, or even before someone has told me I’ve made a mistake. I’m always at the ready to be blamed and apologize. I always feel guilty and like I’ve done something wrong. So I try to be alone when I’m depressed so I don’t feel responsible for all the problems of the planet.

When I’m depressed I always wonder if I’m the only person who feels that way. I question my depression and it’s legitimacy, as though I’m lying to myself about my sadness and suddenly realize I’m happy. It’s shit like this that keeps me in therapy.

What do you do when you’re depressed?

The Chase and the Fall of Squeaker the Mouse

I think a fair share of us have witnessed a moment similar to this one.

I was settling down in bed for the night when I heard TC come up the stairs and into the bedroom. I started calling for her to come up on the bed (she always responds to my invitation). Her head peaked over the side, and I saw she wasn’t alone.

By matter of circumstance (AKA I was taking selfies) I had my camera on and turned to snap the above pic just before she leapt up on to the bed (hey, I did invite her after all…)


For those of you who’ve never truly ‘experienced’ cats, they like to bring their humans gifts. Given how much I dote on TC more than the other three cats, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise she wanted to return the love. But a simple cuddle would have sufficed!

Seeing the mouse I, of course, yelled “OH SHIT!” And leapt out the bed, shooing TC off the bed towards the door, so she could devour her gift elsewhere….. then she dropped the mouse.

I swear to every deity with my hand on a stack of Jenny Lawson books that when TC dropped that mouse, the little shit turned it’s head and smirked at me. Before the full “IT’S ALIVE!” Thought was coherent in my head, the bastard dashed under my parents’ bed.

I could tell from the glee on TC’s face that a grand hunt was about to take place resulting in a massacre under my mother’s bed. So I picked her up and (gently) threw her out of the bedroom and shut the door.

Squeaker (I dubbed him) scurried out underneath the bed and went for the TV cabinet. Fortunately, the cabinet is situated in the corner, so I had the little fella trapped.

 


Using towels and a pair of jeans, I blocked Squeakers exits while I waited for my brother to arrive. When Will got there, an Oscar worthy chase took place.

Will took some amazing dives, full body launches that would have had John McClane proud. The shower I’d taken earlier had been rendered null by the sweat stains all over my pajamas as I dashed up and down the stairs getting tools for extraction.

Unfortunately, after Squeaker dosappeared under the murphy bed in the spare room, he met an accidental end by hiding under a board that my brother stepped on (and rocked back and forth on to prove he wasn’t under it, I believe I said something along the lines of “JESUS FUCK AND HOLY HELL OH GOD!” When I lifted the board and saw the semi-flattened carcass) thus ending Squeaker.

He put up a valiant chase, Will and I really tried our best to get him out alive. After Will left, I went looking for TC. I found her hiding under my car, looking a little nervous. Once inside, and back where it all started in the bed, I cuddled her close and giggled, “Thank you for the gift, little warrior. I know you meant for the mouse to be a present, but getting Will and I to reenact the movie Mouse Hunt [one of our favorite films] might have been the best gift you’ve ever given me.”

RIP Squeaker

Icing on a Cake

These are dark times…. Yeah I never thought I’d ever use that phrase seriously. It’s hard for me to write it without hearing Bill Nighy’s voice from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One. But it’s honestly the atmosphere that is the world right now…

I’m not going to dive into the specifics of the last week, I think we all know what happened, and we all are feeling things on a multitude of levels that makes it hard to function properly. I have always read about those momentous historic moments in text books, like the assassinations of JFK or MLK or Hitler’s rise to power, and empathize on a shallow surface level with the grief the nation felt during those times.

I now realize I never truly appreciated the depth of sadness and disappointment that spreads throughout an entire nation. I was too young when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, it took weeks for the devastation to sink into my elementary educated mind. Now I am in my mid-twenties, and truly experienced the full force devastation that was the November 9th, 2016 election.

It’s been a day by day process. Breathing is a real effort in most moments, I often stop and stare blankly as I contemplate the new low this nation has been brought down to. I rest my hand over my chest as pain pulses there knowing a person full of hate and violence against so many is now elected into our highest office.

Yesterday I felt was the lowest, as I approached my friend’s house in the dark and suddenly slipped over a patch of moss and fell hard to my knees, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck” I loudly drawled, not even caring that the neighbors were currently heading to their car next door. I limped into my friends house and while dressing the scrapes on my knees, I cursed, “This is just the pissy icing on the shit-cake that has been this week!”

I was angry last night when I limped to bed, struggling to get comfortable when my knee was bandaged up and swollen stiff. I was frustrated and exhausted, anxiety still clinching a part of my chest as my leg throbbed.

Today was a step up, calling it ‘better’ is too much of a stretch when I can’t even tell someone “I’m good!” when they ask “how are you?”. My leg is still sore and I spent most of the day alone, but like every day since Tuesday I went out and saw that the world was still spinning and everyone was still working. I see so many people actively working for the better, to be better and take a stand against the hatred and violence.

I’m watching my favorite celebrities push for change and speak out against the unfairness of the election and the tyranny of hate that threatens the nation. I see my boyfriend and friends all donating to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Atlantic Street Center, and more charities in hopes of making a positive change. Safety pins are everywhere as we open ourselves to strangers and let them know that we are there for them and will comfort them in these times of fear and violence.

I’ve read about it in text books and novels, I’ve seen it in films and television; it is always when it takes a hard hit that goodness rises up, stronger than before and enforced by the actions of benevolent compassionate beings.

So I’m going to recite my favorite sayings now so you can hopefully get inspired like I am to get out there, do some good, push for change, and use your voice for the better: Be the change you wish to see in the world. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Consideration is a big deal, it costs us nothing. We are trapped by our own perspectives, make the effort to see the world through the eyes of others, not just your own. You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.

Follow me on twitter @JoyPearson for more non sequiturs and bad poetry

There’s a Monster Outside My Bathroom Door

“It wasn’t an attack.” I thought while sitting calmly on my toilet seat, tying the belt of my robe as I took a moment to stare straight ahead and collect myself.

Anxiety is a tricky bastard who plagues everyone, mine is a full on bitch. But this time she was stealthy; I’d just got done tearing up after watching Chelsea Handler’s episode on Breast Cancer Awareness, making me note in my journal to call and make an appointment with my doctor for a check-up.

I had been smoking pot for the majority of the afternoon and was feeling like taking a hot shower and taking a nap. Waiting for the shower to heat up, I checked my breasts (if you don’t know how, look it up and start kneading your tits) and felt a small lump. I froze and didn’t move, my head moving fast through my schedule for the week hoping to get in a doctor’s appointment sooner rather than later. There isn’t a history of breast cancer in my family, but I’m not someone who’s up to taking chances with her body.

Now lets do a little math: crying during a breast cancer special + finding a small lump under one breast + pot = potential anxiety meltdown. I didn’t necessarily feel anxiety while I stood in the shower contemplating my next steps, but my brain likes to mess with me and started working out all the worst case scenarios I might find myself in the future.

Now lets add one more to the equation; my building has a lot of creaks and small noises, and my bathroom for some reason amplifies them all. I wonder if it’s a secret clause in builders contracts that every single bathroom on the planet must attract all sound and echo them creepily. So with my already vulnerable self feeling anxious, stoned, and naked in my bathroom toweling off from my shower, the noises of building suddenly had me gripped in a sense of panic as I thought the sounds were coming from inside my apartment. And what does my fucking brain do? Imagine Zuul waiting behind the door to possess my body (yes, I have watched Ghostbusters recently, thank you for asking).

Suddenly feeling utterly ridiculous that my anxiety was making it impossible for me to even leave my bathroom, I put my robe on and had a seat on my toilet lid. My water bottle was in the bathroom and still full from yesterday so I took sips from it as I reasoned with myself against thoughts of thieves waiting to pounce (yes, I have also been watching Westworld lately, thanks again for asking).

At one point I smiled, amused by the hilarity that my mind had just put me through. That bitch stood quietly outside my bathroom while I showered and slowly I inhaled her anxiety-inducing smoke from inside (for those of you who are new to the game, I personify my anxiety as a chain smoking witch/bitch). Despite it all, I felt proud of myself.

Two months ago I began a daily tracking of my anxiety using a bullet journal (Yes, I do completely buy into that fad, because it’s the best damn thing thats happened to me in years, thank you for asking). Using a 0-3 scale, I assign a number at the end of each day to a chart that corresponds with the journal entry of the date. That way I’ve been able to track and progress the triggers for my anxiety and process how to avoid them in the future. 0 means I had a great day, no anxiety or worries at all. 1 means I felt some stress and anxious for moments, but nothing I couldn’t overcome. 2 means I felt anxiety and physical discomfort, usually I take xanax to help me out. 3 means I had an attack. Attacks appear in many forms for many different people. For me it usually entails crying, pacing, fidgeting, and the occasional hyperventilation.

But this was not an attack. It didn’t get there; sure I felt worried that something was behind the door, but in a weird cliche way the door I was really afraid to open was inside myself (I know…. I’m gagging too…. but it’s the best way I can describe it). What had the potential of assigning a 2 or 3 to my day, was only a stressful 1 (knock on wood, the day is not over yet). I felt proud of myself in that moment.

Relaxed, I unlocked and opened the bathroom door, meandering out to my living room to sit and write this experience out for others to read and know that they are not alone. I know I’m not the only one who gets really scared, anxious, and imagines the most bizarre yet terrifying delusions that could be straight from a Guillermo Del Toro film. I know I am not the only one who’s locked themselves in a bathroom because they’re scared that something might be wrong. I know I have a mental illness that blows small concerns way further out of proportion, just like so many others on this planet.

I know I am not alone. I also know that there isn’t a monster hiding outside my bathroom.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JoyPearson for more of my delusional anxiety ramblings and incoherent thoughts about a Jurassic World/Downton Abbey cross over called “Jurassic Abbey”.

 

Wandering Fake Stars

 

I can’t be myself when I travel. It’s a matter of fact. I don’t know how to get comfortable in a strange foreign place the way I do when I am home in my personal domain where I know everything inside out and out. I become self-conscious of everything unknown to me, which is just about everything depending on the location of travel.

I’m fortunate this week. Wednesday I traveled out to Newbury Port for the second time; an area my boyfriend is from that I’m somewhat familiar with but more comfortable being in. This time I feel more confident and comfortable in my surroundings, though only by a few inches.

Tonight I drank a bit more wine than normal, using the drink to dull my nerves and anxiety as my guy’s siblings arrived to stay for a few days. It’s not that they’re awful people, it’s that I myself feel I’m out of place on the far outer circle of here. Not uncommon given my circumstances, but anxiety inducing none-the-less.

After excusing myself upstairs for the evening, I found myself in my boyfriend’s childhood bedroom for one of the rare long moments alone I’ve had recently. His room is beautiful; the ceiling is painted in a whimsical space design, using blue and cerulean colors for the background and a dazzling combonation of browns, oranges, and yellows to create the planets of our solar system. It’s dazzling to stare up at in the middle of the day.

It was night when I came up into the room, and no one was around. After changing into my pajamas, I decided to explore the loft. That’s right, my guy’s bedroom has a ladder than leads up to a loft. I remember when I first saw the loft over a year ago during a Skype session during the early days of our dating, when we hadn’t declared ourselves as a serious couple or even knowing we were in the middle of falling in love. I remember the video when I saw his room and I went, “Oh my god WHAT IS THAT?” When I saw the hand railing ascended 10 feet above the bedroom floor. “That’s the loft,” Alex answered casually, but I was completely fascinated. Only in princess stories and tales of medieval castle designs had I heard of ‘lofts’ within rooms, I’d never seen one for myself. I vaguely explored it upon my first visit to his home last summer, but only tonight did I learn how to appreciate it.

All alone in my undergarments (and slightly drunk), I scaled the ladder and crawled tentatively onto the loft. It’s softly carpeted, a few books comfortably lined up against the wall my boyfriend had stored there for time being. There’s a small door, big enough to crawl through that leads into his brother’s bedroom, who has another door that lead’s into his sister’s room, like a series of passages connecting rooms (much like the ones I’d always read in adventure books and died to see in real life).

Hearing no one approaching, I stood up to my full height, surprised to find that I couldn’t head-butt the ceiling with my 5 foot 9 1/2 inch height. I took a step and gripped the handrail and looked down upon the floor plan for the bedroom, which was fairly standard (Bed, desk, bookcase, couple of chairs), and then I looked up.

I recognize that the ceiling of this room is not an accurate representation of the galaxy, but I couldn’t help but be mystified as I slowly reached up and let my finger tips graze the celestial ceiling above me. It was beautiful. I’m about 80% certain it was the alcohol warping my mind, but I felt like I was high enough to explore the galaxy. I imagine this comes from my utter obsession with Guardians of the Galaxy and all other space epics, but I smiled like a true wanderer while I stood on that loft looking out at the painted stars.

I felt a bit like myself when I was up there. A wanderer full of curiosity and wonder as I explore unknown places on my own for the first time with the aid of others. It gave me a sigh of relief to know that that piece of myself remains untouched by the anxieties of life. I can only wish now that I could see the ceiling, the stars and planets, at night as I drift off to sleep. Though I know that if I could, I’d never want to close my eyes again. Which would turn into a tragedy of it’s own.

It’s hard to retain or find yourself when you’re displaced from your natural environment. Without my family near me, I feel exposed and vulnerable to the world in ways many would not understand. But if I can find moments of wonder in my searching and wandering, I find myself feeling stronger and more steady within myself, no matter where I am in that moment.